TVNZ and Spark aiming to give consumers 'choice' and 'control' as 2019 Rugby World Cup comes live with some games free to air

TVNZ and Spark have partnered to bring audiences the 2019 Rugby World Cup, free to air, giving "consumers choice, and giving them control".

For the first time since the 2007 edition of the tournament, audiences will be able to view the All Blacks' bid to become world champions free to air.

New Zealanders will be able to view all RWC2019 matches live or on-demand via Spark streaming over their broadband or mobile connection. It won't be restricted to Spark customers.

The tournament will be offered on a pay to watch basis, with packages to include a tournament pass and passes for individual matches.

TVNZ will screen selected matches free-to-air and won't break to ads in live game time.

Next year's World Cup isn't the only global tournament secured by the TVNZ-Spark partnership, with the 2021 Women's World Cup, 2018 Sevens World Cup, and 2018 and 2019 U20 tournaments also to be free to air.

In a media release, TVNZ CEO Kevin Kenrick spoke of his delight at being able to bring New Zealanders coverage of next year's global rugby showpiece.

"Our agreement will broaden the availability of New Zealand's biggest sport and give viewers even more choice."

"Together we're committed to delivering a fantastic viewing experience for all New Zealanders – making the most of Spark's leading digital technology and distribution capabilities and TVNZ's unrivalled audience reach and content expertise."

Speaking on TVNZ 1's Breakfast today, Kevin Kenrick and Spark managing director Simon Moutter detailed the process of broadcasting next year's tournament.

"This is the new world coming at us in video," Moutter said.

"We're going to deliver it primarily through an online streaming platform.

"They'll be delivered in a range of packages, people will be able to buy a single match, a tournament pass - at very affordable prices."

"The critical thing here is giving the consumers choice, and giving them control," Kenrick added.

Kenrick also said that the televised live coverage would differ from that of this year's Commonwealth Games.

"The Comm Games has been brilliant - we've had a great opportunity to learn by getting back into live sport in a big way."

"One of the lessons for us is about the placement of ads. I can tell you there will not be ads during live games of the Rugby World Cup.

"We've learned some lessons around that, and we're pretty keen to build on those."

TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick and Spark managing director Simon Moutter spoke on TVNZ1’s Breakfast after the Rugby World Cup coverage announcement. Source: Breakfast

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'I will be joining an elite Test team' - John Mitchell confirmed as new England defence coach

Former New Zealand head coach John Mitchell will be joining Eddie Jones' staff as England's defence coach until the end of next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Mitchell will leave his role of Executive of Rugby for South African Super Rugby side the Bulls and join up with former Wallabies boss Jones this month to help prepare for their upcoming run of internationals, including a clash against Australia on November 24 at Twickenham.

The 54-year-old replaces Paul Gustard, who took over as head coach of English premiership side Harlequins this season.

"This is an exciting opportunity to work with England Rugby and support Eddie Jones as head coach," Mitchell said.

"I will be joining an elite high-performance programme, test team and coaching group where I will use all my experience and focus to bring the necessary clarity and confidence to the players from a defensive perspective."

England's defence has come under intense scrutiny after a poor run of form in 2018 that has included five defeats in eight internationals.

Three of those losses came in the Six Nations as the defending champions finished a dismal fifth, and criticism has mounted in the wake of their 2-1 series defeat in South Africa.

The hope is that Mitchell's experience will aid an upturn in form. The New Zealander previously served as forwards coach to Clive Woodward when the latter was in charge of England between 1997 and 2000.

As head coach of the All Blacks, he won 23 of 28 tests and led the team to a third-place finish at the 2003 Rugby World Cup and consecutive Tri-Nations titles.

"Defence is a key pillar of our game and John is an experienced coach," said Australian Jones.

"He's coached the All Blacks, USA Rugby and a number of Super Rugby sides so he will bring a wealth of experience and add to the coaching mix we have here."


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'It's a great opportunity' - Canterbury law student dabbles in new NZ Rugby initiative, Ignite Sevens

Canterbury sevens player Grace Steinmetz only played the game last year in December and is now having a crack at making the national women’s team.

New Zealand Rugby has started a new initiative Ignite 7 which sees 48 female and 48 male athletes take part in a four day event on November 21.

Players will go through a field of testing before playing in a televised one day tournament to earmark new talent.

"Hadn't played rugby or sevens before, so come from a touch and hockey background," said Steinmetz.

The 20-year-old law student hopes to one day wear the Black Ferns women jumper as she tries out her hand in the Ignite 7 tournament.

"It is something I would love to do one day, I think it's a great opportunity for sevens now girls, it's professional and it can be your job now," she said.

"I don't have to worry about my law degree, like I can just go and train and be a professional athlete which is definitely a goal of mine."

Coming from a touch and hockey background Grace Steinmetz admits she is still getting used to contact. Source: 1 NEWS


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Bert and Ernie aren't gay, Sesame Street insists as persistent puppet sexuality rumours swell again

On again off again gay rights icons Bert and Ernie aren't gay. Repeat: The famous puppets are not in a same-sex relationship.

That's the word from the producers of Sesame Street, who had to quell rumours about the duo's personal life yet again today after the theory - oft repeated over the show's nearly 50-year history -- was stoked by an interview with a former writer.

"I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were (gay)," said Mark Saltzman, who wrote for the show throughout most of the 1980s, in an interview with LGBTQ website Queerty.

"I don't think I'd know how else to write them, but as a loving couple... Because how else?"

Mr Saltzman said he was inspired to write their loving interactions and minor quibbles by his own relationship.

But in a tweet this morning, Sesame Street issued a statement insisting that "they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation".

"As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends," producers said. "They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves."

A writer previously revealed he wrote the roommates as a gay couple, but Sesame Workshop says none of the show’s puppets have a sexual orientation. Source: 1 NEWS


Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup tickets to go on sale, All Blacks fans urged to get in quick

All Blacks fans are urged to get in quick if they are to secure seats at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, with officials warning tickets will sell out fast one year out from the tournament.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the William Webb Ellis Cup after winning Rugby World Cup Final. New Zealand All Blacks v Australia Wallabies, Twickenham Stadium, London, England. Saturday 31 October 2015. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the William Webb Ellis Cup after winning Rugby World Cup Final. Source: Photosport

Half a million tickets have already been pre-sold with tickets set to be open for sale to the public at 1pm today (NZ time).

Head of the Rugby World Cup Alan Gilpin believes there will be an "unprecedented demand" for tickets which involves the home team, Japan's Brave Blossoms and the top tier nations.

"All the matches involving Japan, definitely all the matches involving New Zealand... England, Australia are experiencing high demand and we would expect they will be sold out very quickly," said Gilpin.

The All Blacks begin their title defence against the Springboks in Yokohama, the evening after the tournament opener between Japan and Russia in Tokyo on September 20, 2019.

Adult ticket prices are expected to range from ¥10,000 - ¥40,000 (NZD $136-$544) while tickets to the final on November 2 to cost anywhere between ¥25,000 - ¥100,000 (NZD $340-$1361).

"When you bring Rugby World Cup to a place like Japan, you hope that people will get behind it and the demand will be there – and it really has been," said Gilpin.

"It's a fantastic story for the event and a good message of confidence for the organising committee."